Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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A Thursday Morning "It's Been A While" Review: "When The Devil Dances"

John Ringo's When The Devil Dances is the third part of a four book military SF series.

Some time in the early years of the 21st century the Earth was contacted by a coalition of alien races. The Posleen, an implacable race of nomadic creatures, is invading the local area of space. Not only are the Posleen violent and rapacious, it also turns out that our new allies are pacifists and need help from the most violent species they can find: humanity. Oh, and Earth is pretty much next in line for invasion.

Three books on and there's not much left of the human race. The Posleen invasion happened on shedule, and resistence rapidly crumbled. An accident of geography means that most of the survivors are in mountain valleys or on the high central plains of the USA, buried in underground redoubt cities. A guerilla war, supported by artillery, against the Posleen has kept them pinned in the costal plains. But one Posleen is smarter than the rest, and has a plan for how to bring down the walls around the survivors.

Ringo's multi-threaded novel follows several related plot strands: a group of women in one of the refugee shelters (one of whom is a rebuilt character from the first novel), a group of soldiers investigating the latest Posleen incursion, the crew of a 7000 ton "tank" (called Bun-Bun, by its Sluggy Freelance-loving crew), and Major Michael O'Neal - main character in the previosu two works in this series, an expert in armoured suit tactics, and victor in many battles against the enemy - as he prepares for what may be the decisive battle in the war. It's a story that ends in a cliff hanger, leading us into the next book in the series...

When The Devil Dances is a sprawling novel, that goes well beyond the simplistic hack and slash of the generic military SF novel. Ringo's characters are faced with agonising moral choices, and have to deal with issues of life and death, and the calculus of risk and reward. This is not a pleasant novel,where human victory is ensured. The Posleen are a voracious enemy, swarming across the landscape, and humanities allies may not be the friends we'd like them to be...

An interesting piece of military SF. Worth looking out for if you enjoy the genre, and are looking for something a little more challenging than David Drake. Just remember, there's at least one more book to go!
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